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Brad Penny was baseball’s quintessential journeyman

Brad Penny had a solid decade and a half in the majors. A look back at his journey throughout baseball.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Brad Penny in the fifth round of the 1996 draft out of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma High School in rural Oklahoma. Though he played for half a dozen teams, Penny never pitched in the desert. He relied primarily on his fastball until the latter part of his career and demonstrated solid success on the mound across his 14 years in the majors.

Penny made his debut in 2000 for the Florida Marlins when he posted an ERA- of 108 and a FIP- of 105. That season served as a microcosm for a pitcher whose career in the aggregate was largely league average, though there were some years when he served as a key member of a successful rotation.

In his sophomore season pitching in Miami, Penny served up his best season by fWAR. He threw over 200 innings and put up an earned run average 12 percent better than league average per ERA- and 15 percent better than average per ERA+ for a largely-forgettable fourth place and under-.500 Marlins team.

Penny showed his effectiveness in the middle of his career, however, particularly between 2003 and 2007. In 2003 he pitched for the World Champion Marlins, who promptly traded him to the Dodgers as part of a package for Guillermo Mota, Juan Encarnacion, and Paul Lo Duca (some things just never change).

He spent a good portion of the middle part of his career in Los Angeles, where he threw 678 innings over the course of 4+ years. Penny represented the Dodgers in the All Star Game in 2006 and 2007, during which time he had an ERA+ of 123. He demonstrated success in LA despite not striking out a ton of batters or keeping men off the bases via walks.

The Dodgers got the most out of Penny in 2005 to 2007, and a 94-inning 2008 (the last year of his contract) sealed his fate away from LA. Boston picked up Penny and had him as part of their fluid rotation. The Red Sox eventually replaced him at the back of the rotation with veteran knucleballer Tim Wakefield, and Boston would be one of six franchises Penny would be a part of over the next five years.

In August 2009, the Giants picked up Penny off waivers, and he finished the year in San Francisco. He then signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals; he threw only 55.2 innings with them but was effective. In 2011 he reunited with Miguel Cabrera (of the 2001 champ Marlins) in Detroit where he served as the number two starter behind phenom Justin Verlander - a team that lost in the ALCS to the Rangers.

From that point forward Penny bounced around clubs but could never land a starting job due to health and a lack of performance. In 2012 he signed with the Japanese Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, but after getting blown out in his debut, Fukuoka placed him on the DL and he never returned to make another start.

Penny tried for a comeback with the Giants, Marlins, White Sox, Royals, and Blue Jays but simply could not produce for any of the teams that took a flier on him. Penny's final stats: 1925 innings pitched, a 102 ERA-, and a 97 FIP-.

Brad Penny will not be remembered as a dominant pitcher, but rather as an average journeyman. He had the privilege to be a part of a World Series-winning Florida Marlins team, and he was a key player in their victory over the Yankees. The career of Brad Penny will go down as ‘serviceable', which in many ways is not a terrible way to earn a living.


Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a Contributor to The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano.